Preserving the Environment

Could Olive Trees Save California’s Drought-Stricken Farmers?

July 31, 2014
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Could Olive Trees Save California’s Drought-Stricken Farmers?
Samuel Aranda/Getty Images
The trees, which are incredibly resilient without water, could be the next big crop for an increasingly dry California.

The olive branch — a timeless Greek symbol of peace — could now signal a new beginning for drought-stricken California. All but completely built for total dryness, these trees are mighty impressive and may just save America’s biggest agriculture state, according to Grist.

With small, waxy leaves and the ability to sense drought and go dormant during rain-free times, olive trees are the perfect crop for California’s future – a future that soon enough, may not be able to support the crops currently growing.

That’s because California’s drought is very real — and goes far beyond a simple slowdown in rainfall. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Governor Jerry Brown has called for residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent, and a recently passed law makes wasting water illegal.

READ MORE: How Fog Could Solve California’s Drought

“[Farmers] are coming to the stark realization that, no matter what they do, there won’t be enough water to keep their trees alive,” Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Gate writes.

Which is where olive trees come in.

Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center, told Grist that “there’s 10 times more California-grown olive oil than we had 10 years ago,” meaning an oil boom — olive oil, that is — already has legs and is off and running. That’s because the California climate is becoming nearly identical to the native habitat of olive trees: the Mediterranean. This makes them incredibly easy to farm, as they are significantly more sustainable than the almond tree, which, in many cases, they will displace.

Especially with the advent of almond milk, that nut has been in high demand. Almond trees require a lot of water, though, which makes them bad crops for the new California.

Health fanatics shouldn’t worry, though, as olive oil has been shown to be extremely good for you. Another plus is that an increased domestic supply could make for olive oil that’s both higher in quality and better tasting.

So what does all this mean?

We get tastier olive oil and become healthier as a country in the process? Yes. Most importantly, however, is that California can continue on as an agricultural powerhouse even as the climate changes.

This olive branch is bringing peace. Peace of mind, that is, that we don’t have to give up in the face of drought.

DON’T MISS: The Silver Lining To California’s Terrible Drought

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